Book: STORM: The Infinity Code
Author: Emma Young
Age Range: 10 to 14
The first of what promises to be a series, STORM: The Infinity Code by E. L. Young is a story tailor-made for fans of the Alex Rider, Young Bond, Alfred Kropp, and Maximum Ride books (though without the fantasy/science fiction elements of the latter two, and aimed at a slightly younger age range). Our hero is fourteen-year-old Will, a talented inventor, unhappy after the death of his father, and his subsequent abandonment by his mother. Will is surprised when a girl from school named Gaia invites him to be part of a shadowy group of teens, focused on solving big-picture problems in the world. The other participants, besides the multi-lingual and brave Gaia, include Andrew, a wealthy computer whiz lacking in social skills, and (sometimes) Caspian, the genius son of a famous and recently kidnapped astrophysicist. As Andrew explains to Will:
"STORM: Science and Technology to Over-Rule Misery. We might be young, but we are not impotent. We can act. We can change the world. The only real challenge is for us to believe it... My vision is this... That we come together, and we recruit others who have talents, and under the banner of STORM we work to tackle the problems in the world. Why not? We're geniuses. We can take on HIV. We can take on global warming. We have the brains. I have the money. I say: Let's do it!"
Will takes some time to be be convinced of these lofty ambitions, but he is eventually won over by his teammates. After solving a crisis close to home, Will, Gaia, and Andrew find themselves enmeshed in a mystery which requires them to travel by train to Russia on very short notice, and without passports. Once there, they find a crisis that could lead to the end of the world, unless the three teenagers can stop it in time. Clever inventions, quick thinking, brave escapades, and team loyalty all play a part in what follows.
Clearly, one must suspend belief to enjoy a book like this. There are implausible coincidences, and some surprisingly hands-off behavior by the adults. (Will's temporary guardian, for example, takes his impromptu trip to Russia quite in stride.) But for the target audience, I don't think that this suspension of belief will be a problem. And The Infinity Code is a fun, exciting adventure.
Will's inventions are ingenious. The book includes an author's note at the end indicating that the inventions, and the science in the book, are based on "genuine research and inventions." Illustrations of the key gadgets are also included in the end material, and are sure to please scientifically-minded readers. The main characters are all unabashedly bright, but they are quirky and emotionally wounded enough to make them accessible to readers. Gaia presents an excellent model of a strong, brave teenage girl, one who keeps Will on his toes. And I like that the characters are not afraid to use science to further their aims.
I think that The Infinity Code, and the presumed future books in the STORM series, will be a hit with their target audience. And they might even become a guilty pleasure for older readers like myself, too. This book is a welcome addition to the growing canon of middle school-level spy novels.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.